Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Law building attracts environmental conference attendees

Visitors tour the Sturm College of Law nearly every day, but on Nov. 17 two busloads of people paid $50 each for the privilege.

They were participants in Greenbuild, an annual U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) international expo. More than 13,000 attended this year’s expo held at the Denver Convention Center.

On the final day, more than 90 participants boarded buses to see how the Frank H. Ricketson Jr. Law Building — the nation’s first law school building certified “gold” under the USGBC green building rating system known as LEED — had made use of recycled building materials, carpeting, copper and acoustic tiles.

“It’s a wonderful space,” law school Dean Jose Roberto Juarez Jr. told tour guests. “It’s economical and the investment was minimal compared with the payoff for years to come.”

Juarez added that having a gold certified building breeds a positive attitude among students and aids in recruiting for the law school’s renowned environmental law program.

“We tell them we not only talk the talk, we walk the walk,” Juarez said.

The USGBC is a nonprofit coalition of 7,200 member groups that promote environmentally responsible places to live and work. Participants included architects, contractors, engineers and government officials from throughout the U.S. and 32 different countries.

At Sturm, they asked about nearly everything: how the mechanical room worked, what the lighting strategy was — even whether the recycled construction materials had made students sick.

University Architect Mark Rodgers and six assistants fielded questions and explained how the $64 million Ricketson building opened in August 2003 and uses 40 percent less electricity, gas and water than a conventional building.

Additionally, visitors learned that recycled materials in the 181,000-square-foot building were used in the roof, carpet and ceilings, and waterless urinals and sensor-activated faucets and toilets were installed to conserve water. Heavy masonry was used to cut heating and cooling costs, and occupancy sensors were installed to better control indoor lighting.

Friday’s tour also included a visit to CH2M Hill, a multinational environmental engineering firm. It was one of nine walking and bus tours of environmentally interesting buildings in the metro-Denver area.

Many sites on the tours were familiar names: the Stapleton community; National Renewable Energy Laboratory; Denver Museum of Art; and Alfred A. Arraj Federal Courthouse. But other destinations were less renowned as environmentally friendly structures: the New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins; the Aurora Wal-Mart; and the REI building in Denver.

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